Twelve

Recently, "12" has been a rather significant number in my life. I mean, I am part of the graduating class of 2012. I spent countless hours of my college career in the art & design studio, which just so happens to be located in Bay 12, the same location as my senior capstone exhibit.



Smith Warehouse, Bay 12


Cameron Indoor Stadium (a la cell phone), Section 12


On May 12, 2012, I attended my departmental graduation ceremony and received my college diploma from Duke University.


And exactly twelve minutes later (I looked at the timestamps on all of the pictures - no joke)...


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...I GOT ENGAGED!


Ironically enough, I think it only took twelve minutes from the moment Zach offered to accompany me on my emergency Skittles run to the moment I realized that I really liked him and could see us being more than "just friends," but there aren't any photographs or timestamps to confirm that :)


Secretly, I had always wanted to get engaged on my college graduation day (it was either that, or on the balcony of my own loft apartment in New York City while overlooking the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... and option #2 seemed a little ambitious), but I had never said that to Zach. You see, exactly 26 years ago, my dad proposed to my mom on her college graduation day, and I grew up fascinated by their story. After dating for four years & two months, he popped the question right before the ceremony & she said yes... but they didn't have time to tell anyone before graduation began. They didn't need to, apparently, because mom's engagement ring caught the light as she walked across the stage to get her diploma, and her entire family knew she was engaged right then & there. Surprise! :)

Since Zach and I have been dating for almost four years (next month, woot!), we had obviously talked about engagement quite a bit. We have known from very early on in our relationship that we wanted to get married, and we had a pretty good estimate of when we wanted it to happen. We had also thought a lot about how it would fit into the timeline of my college career & Zach's Marine Corps life, and up until recently, I thought a graduation engagement was a definite possibility.

But then life got crazy. Zach had a huge Commanding General's Readiness Inspection last month, around the same time as my semester was coming to an end. I was busy trying to finish up everything with my senior capstone project & prepare everything for graduation, and he was literally working 18-hour days for weeks leading up to the inspection. Getting engaged was the last thing on anyone's mind (or so I thought).

So was I surprised? I'm pretty sure the pictures speak for themselves, but yes! :) Mostly because Zach is the worst secret keeper in the entire world, and I still can't believe that he got a ring without me knowing. Apparently getting things ready for graduation is a bigger distraction that I anticipated. (Although I should have assumed something when he refused to give me my graduation present a few days early - he is the kind of guy who typically has to give a present within 12 seconds of purchasing it. Instead, I just assumed that he had been so busy with work that he hadn't had time to get me a present at all and would make up for it later.)

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Unbeknownst to me, Zach carried the ring in his pocket all day - to the baccalaureate service, to lunch on the BC Plaza, to the bookstore, to Krzyzewskiville, to Cameron Indoor - waiting for the right time to propose. Although most departments were having their diploma ceremony the following day, the Art, Art History, and Visual Studies (AAHVS) departmental graduation was scheduled for 5:30 that night in the President's Ballroom of the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. The change in schedule and location allowed for as many guests to attend as possible, instead of the previous "4 guests only" rule, and because of that, I had over a dozen family members coming to town to see me get my diploma.

The AAHVS department is incredibly small, so the ceremony was over in less than half an hour. My family wanted to go out to eat, so we quickly began taking all obligatory photos:



With my sisters


With my paternal grandparents


With my maternal grandparents

With my cousin

With my uncle, aunt, and cousins

With another cousin

With my boyfriend* (our last pic as boyfriend/girlfriend)


And then, BAM, it happened. Just like that. I was still looking ahead, making sure that all the family members who were taking pictures were satisfied with their Zach/Beth shots before moving on to the next person, when Zach gently reached out, grabbed my arm, and turned me towards him. Right there -- in front of my parents, my sisters, all four of my grandparents, and half of my aunts/uncles/cousins -- he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.


I apparently made some awesome surprised faces and stood completely in shock for what felt like the longest time; I was in total disbelief that this was actually happening. I remember looking at Zach... and the ring... and then back to Zach... and then back to the ring. I remember wondering how he had talked to my father without me knowing. I vaguely remember my entire family standing just ten feet away gasping and taking pictures, and I most definitely remember thinking that if I wanted Zach to stand up and kiss me, I was going to have to say something. Oh my goodness, I still hadn't said anything! I probably only stood there in shock for a few seconds, but it felt like time stood still. I'm sure it felt like an eternity to Zach before I remembered that I had to respond and exclaimed, "Yes!"



We hugged...




And kissed...



And then remembered that over a dozen of my family members were still there.



Everyone kept asking me to hold out my hand so they could take pictures of the ring, but I was shaking way too much to get a non-blurry photo. Fortunately, I had a brand new diploma to help steady things ;)






Major props to my sister, Katherine, who captured the moment... while simultaneously capturing her own shocked reaction :)




We finished taking the pictures - this time, as fiancé/fiancée - and set out to a much later than anticipated dinner with my family ;)






After an evening of exciting phone calls, pix messages, and one final rendezvous with Cameron Indoor Stadium, my family left while Zach and I went out in search of Welch's grape juice. We ended up on the very top level of the parking deck on campus, cranked up the iPhone speakers, danced outdoors, and prayed together for our future marriage, all while overlooking the beautifully-lit Chapel. In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a more perfect way to spend my final night at Duke University.




And that, my friends, is the story of how I got a college diploma and an engagement ring within twelve minutes of one another. Pretty good twelve minutes, if you ask me.